Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Rail Cartel same as the Old Rail Cartel

As the Eye mentioned in a previous post 
It looks like very same cronyism is now happening in Pinellas with the same rail cartel led by Tampa Bay Partnership pushing the Greenlight Pinellas boondoggle.
So let's connect the dots between the 2010 rail referendum in Hillsborough and what we see going on with the pro rail side in Pinellas. 

Back in 2010, the pro rail PAC was "Moving Hillsborough Forward" which was even called the "political wing of the Tampa Bay Partnerhsip" by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.  Moving Hillsborough Forward was simply a symbiotic twin of Tampa Bay Partnership.  They shared office space, resources and staff according to this Bradenton Times article titled “Grassroots” Tampa Rail Organization has Deep-Pocketed Backers that Stand to Profit The Tampa Bay Partnership is Moving Hillsborough Forward
In March of 2010 the Tampa Bay Partnership created the local political action group called “Moving Hillsborough Forward,” which shares office space and staff with their affiliated parent, the Partnership, though it maintains its own bank account.
 Their recent launch of televised advertising is identified as originating from “Moving Hillsborough Forward,” which represents itself as “a grassroots coalition of Hillsborough County residents, neighborhoods, environmentalists, businesses, civic groups and community leaders.”
The Bradenton Times article provided an abundance of information about who Moving Hillsborough Forward actually was:
  • Gary Sasso is the Chair, Deputy Treasurer and Registered Agent at Moving Hillsborough Forward while also a board member and Vice Director of the Partnership. He is President and CEO of Carlton Fields, a Tampa Bay Partnership member.
  • Stuart Rogel acts as Deputy Treasurer at Moving Hillsborough Forward while simultaneously is the President and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership.
  • Ten interns were recruited from USF by a Partnership member using a Partnership email for contact. Student interns are receiving school credit for their work. 
  • A young professional group TRANSITion Tampa Bay has a website and is orchestrating events to rally on the rail issue. They identify several members as well as the Tampa Bay Partnership and Moving Hillsborough Forward as partners, in addition to the young professional programs of the Clearwater and Tampa Chambers, plus the local NAIOP chapter. There is no political or nonprofit filing for this group in the state of Florida.
  • Requests for information to the young professional group were responded to by Betty Carlin, Tampa Bay Partnership Director of Communications, informing that the young professionals group is a committee of the Tampa Bay Partnership (emphasis mine). 
This pertinent information was reported in a Bradenton publication but not in our local pro rail print media in Hillsborough county in 2010.

In addition, Chuck Sykes was then President of the Greater Chamber of Commerce and also became an officer of the Moving Hillsborough Forward PAC.  In 2009, the then Chairman of the Chamber, Henry Gonzalez, stated this in an interview with WMNF:
We had voted unanimously in a past board meeting to be supportive of the points set forth by the Tampa Bay Partnership.
At the Hillsborough County Supervisors of Elections are the campaign filings for Moving Hillsborough Forward PAC that raised about $1.6 million in 2010.  Select one of the pdf files and the address used by Moving Hillsborough Florida is 4300 West Cypress St., Tampa, FL 33607.  What is Tampa Bay Partnership's address?  4300 West Cypress St., Tampa, FL 33607

TRANSITion Tampa Bay Facebook page describes their organization
Non-Profit Organization
TRANSITion Tampa Bay is an organization for young professionals who want to see an innovative and integrated transportation network in the Tampa Bay region become a reality
Their last Facebook Post was August 22, 2013: 
August 22, 2013 near Tampa, FLLAST CHANCE: I will be deleting the TRANSITion Tampa Bay facebook page today. If you haven't "liked" Connect Tampa Bay yet, please do it now so you can keep up on transportation news.
Thanks - Brian Seel
According to, Brian Seel is now an officer of the pro transit non-profit Connect Tampa Bay .

Brian Seel also is the son of Pinellas County commissioner Karen Seel who voted to place Greenlight Pinellas on the 2014 ballot.  Karen Seel's father, the late Don Williams, was a past chairman of PSTA.

The Eye reported previously that another taxpayer funded layer of transportation bureaucracy, TBARTA, was created by our state legislature in 2007 due to pressure by the Tampa Bay Partnership. Thus, taxpayer funded TBARTA and Tampa Bay Partnership are tied together today to promote their agenda. 

Fast forward to 2012 in Pinellas.  The Yes for Greenlight nonprofit was established last month creating controversy because the organization was created and being led by the chairman of taxpayer funded TBARTA, Ronnie Duncan.  You can find our posts here, here and here.  Supposedly, Duncan resigned from the Yes for Greenlight organization. But as of today still lists his name as a Director, along with Stuart Rogel of Tampa Bay Partnership and Chris Steinocher, President and CEO of St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.  
Yes for Greenlight nonprofit registration
There was additional controversy regarding transparency surrounding the Yes for Greenlight non-profit.  As a non-profit, the organization is not required to disclose their donors, campaign contributions or where they spent their money.  

So now a new pro Greenlight Pinellas PAC has been registered with the Pinellas County Supervisors of Election called Friends of Greenlight.  According to their registration, Joel Giles is Chairman and Stuart Rogel  is Treasurer. 

Who is Joel Giles? Joel Giles is an attorney with Carlton Fields law firm,  a member of the Tampa Bay Partnership.
Joel Giles practices in the areas of complex real estate and commercial transactions.  He represents the  developers of large mixed-use, commercial and residential projects.
Gary Sasso, who headed Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010, also works for Carlton Fields.

Will Yes for Greenlight remain in place together with the Friends of Greenlight PAC?   According to this March 13 post on SaintPetersblog, supposedly a new Yes for Greenlight team was announced:
In a statement issued Thursday, Don Ewing will be the new co-chair, joining St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher. Ewing is head of the Council of North County Neighborhoods and President of Haruspex Business Software in Clearwater. 
Joel Giles, Tom Morrissette, Stuart Rogel, and Bob Clifford will make up the initiative’s Organizational Committee, whose function is to support decision-making by the co-chairs.
The inaugural 20-person team includes Sierra Club regional rep Phil Compton, Florida Consumer Action Network specialist Tim Heberlin, Duke Energy Government/Community Relations District Manager Melissa Seixas, Crescent Oaks HOA president John Miolla and former St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner.
Donations can be given to both organizations but only the PAC must file campaign reports. Donations could be made to the Yes for Greenlight nonprofit and then they donate to the PAC.  It will be interesting to watch.

The dots are connected.  What's revealed is that the new rail cartel in Pinellas is the same as the old rail cartel.  The same rail cartel that failed to get a train in Hillsborough in 2010 are now are pushing for a rail boondoggle in Pinellas.

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